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New York Times and Israeli Disinformation Campaign

Much Ado About Nothing: New York Times and Israeli Disinformation Campaign

By: Kaveh L. Afrasiabi, Ph.D.
Akaveh1 (at)

Iran may be guilty of a lot of things, but entering into a strategic alliance with Arafat's Palestinians and assuming their military patronage by all verifiable indications is not one of them, contrary to the prominent front page article in last Sunday's New York Times trumpeting the secret meetings in Moscow leading to this sort of alliance.
In the few days that have past, the top U.S. officials including the National Security Adviser have invariably stated their ignorance of any Moscow meetings between Arafat's men and certain Iranian officials, nor have the intelligence officials or other national media such as the Washington Post confirmed any aspect of the New York Times report, which was based almost exclusively on information from Israeli sources.

But, God forbid any one criticizing Israel for spreading disinformation on Iran and desperately seeking to turn America's war machine against Iran now that the entire Arab world has seemingly succeeded in blocking the attack on Iraq (for now at least). The question is why would a respected international paper like the New York Times overindulge the Israeli disinformation campaigners at a time like this?

Certainly, by any media parameter that report did not warrant the central focus of the front page given the paucity of its sources other than Israel and the fact that below the article was written in small print "U.S. Government officials cannot confirm report." One may also legitimately ask why the report failed to even entertain the possibility that the Israelis may have ulterior motives in their offer of unique information on "Iran-Palestinian alliance," such as politics of scapegoat.

None of this is to suggest that Iran is not funneling money or arms to the Palestinians, and chances are Tehran is to some small extent, but the problem with the Times piece was that it overstated the case and inferred too much from the Karin A fiasco. Also, the reporters readily dismissed the notion of a rogue operation, or perhaps, Iran's gamble to showcase itself on the scene through a one-shot deal. The fact is we have too little empirical information to conclude one way or another and, thus, are forced to perpetual guessing games.

This recalls a chance encounter with Iran's deputy foreign minister in New York a couple of weeks ago. Dr. Zarif adamantly denied Iran's role in the Karin A arms shipment and told this author and an American journalist that "if we had done it we would at least make sure to wipe out the Farsi words on the arms. It is obvious that whoever is behind it wanted to leave no doubt that it is Iran's doing." Dr. Zarif went on to say that after thorough investigation by the government there is no evidence of any Iranian involvement in the Karin A shipment, yet he would not rule out the role of arms smugglers and conceded that it is a very lucrative business.

As to the situation in Afghanistan, Dr. Zarif, rightly in my opinion, criticized the U.S. government for being ungrateful for all the support that Iran provided to the refugees, Northern Alliance, and the Bonn meeting -- "they woke me up at 2 in the morning to intervene because the meeting (of Afghan leaders- KA) was falling apart." Above all, Zarif criticized the U.S. for not crediting Iran for the peaceful takeover of Kabul by Northern Alliance. "Musharaf was warning of a bloodbath and yet we allowed General Fahim to bring in only one militia to town."

Surely Iran has a stake in post-Taliban Afghanistan and is forced into a "new great game" along at least half a dozen other players, regionally and non-regionally, in the area, but to jump from this, as the Bush Administration has wrongly done, to the conclusion that any security move Iran makes is by nature "evil" or "destabilizing" is pure nonsense. What the Bush Administration needs is to disengage itself from the Israeli disinformation campaign and take a new hard look at the region's map and Iran's role in it.

An Iranian Odyssey

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